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Mandela's Former Charity Head Not Guilty in Blood Diamond Trial

JOHANN HATTINGH/AFP/Getty Images(JOHANNESBURG) -- Jeremy Ractcliffe, former chief of Nelson Mandela's Children's Fund, was found not guilty in a South African court Wednesday of keeping illegal, unlicensed diamonds, BBC News reports.

The stones that prosecutors called "blood diamonds" first became an issue at the war crimes trial of Liberia's former president, Charles Taylor.  Model Naomi Campbell testified in Taylor's trial that the stones were delivered to her after a charity dinner hosted by former South African President Nelson Mandela in 1997.  Campbell then gave the gems to Ractcliffe to be donated to charity.

Last August, BBC News reports, Ractcliffe resigned after admitting to keeping the uncut stones and saying that he did so to maintain the reputation of Mandela and his charity.  

But in court Wednesday, an attorney for Ractcliffe read a statement from the ex-charity head that he was unaware his possession of the jewels was unlawful.

Magistrate Renier Boshoff subsequently ruled Wednesday that the state had not sufficiently proven its case against Ractcliffe.

Ractcliffe faced 10 years in prison or a fine of up to $250,000 if he had been convicted.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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